Dennis Hopeless and Tini Howard (Writers), Serg Acuna and Hyeonjin Kim (Artists)
May 9, 2017
In 2002, WWE crowds witnessed one of the worst matches of the modern era. It was a tag team match that involved the extremely talented Trish Stratus and Jackie Gayda, the winner of the recent Tough Enough competition who, as we discovered that night, was not at all ready to be performing on that level. The infamous match also delivered one of the most honest lines ever from longtime WWE commentator Jim Ross: “Mercifully, it’s over.”
You may wonder why this is relevant to my review of the final issue of WWE‘s “Women’s Evolution” arc. Then again, if you’ve been following any of my previous thoughts on this series, you probably know exactly why I bring up this particular quote. I don’t even know what there is to say here in particular, because it’s the same mess that we’ve seen since issue #14. We were promised a story about the revolutionary Four Horsewomen of NXT and instead, we got issue after issue of Bayley feeling sorry for herself, acting pathetic, and being angry at other women for getting what she wants. That would be bad characterization just on its own, but it is even worse considering it’s completely counter to Bayley’s character on every single level.
My continued complaint, though, is that this was not the story of the Four Horsewomen. That story would have involved moments like the one Sasha Banks talks about during an NXT panel before Summerslam. When the women were told to “wrestle like Divas,” WWE’s standard for their women at the time which meant no punching, no forearms, essentially not wrestling but cat-fighting in skimpy outfits, Banks specifically said no, that was not what they were going to do. We’d have seen Becky Lynch evolving from Irish jig-dancing joke to the goggle sporting steampunk girl made of “Straight Fire.” That story would have followed Charlotte Flair’s journey to make her career based on her own athleticism, talent, and charisma rather than on her last name and her famous father. And yes, we would have seen Bayley: we’d have seen her as the heart of the Four Horsewomen, someone whose love of wrestling was so genuine and unabashed that it’s been cited as completely changing the atmosphere in the women’s locker room.
But instead I get to beat on about the problems with the writing, which include messy pacing, shoddy characterization, and random and pointless POV switches. The subplot about Triple H and William Regal trying to cost Bayley her NXT Women’s Title is gone as suddenly as it was introduced last issue. Alliances between the Horsewomen are created and broken apart with no rationale or explanation for the reader.
The conclusion of the story is Bayley showing up as Sasha’s tag team partner at the WWE Battleground show in 2016, saying “I’ve wrestled in a WWE ring once, I’ve achieved my dream.” That’s the summation of the whole thing. Not Bayley’s debut as a full-time member of the Raw roster, and not with her winning the WWE Raw Women’s Championship or her winning at her first ever Wrestlemania.
When I saw Bayley wrestle live at an NXT event a few years ago, one of her trademark Wacky Waving Inflatable Tube Men didn’t inflate like it was supposed to. Bayley, in a fabulous ad lib, grabbed the deflated figure and hugged it sadly. That is exactly what the ending of this whole story felt like.
I will, once more, praise the Asuka back-up story. While I felt like Hyeonjin Kim’s art wasn’t quite as strong as it has been in previous issues, it still manages to capture so much. A lot of characterization comes through in single panel appearances, and he does plenty of justice to Alexa Bliss’s animated facial expressions. But props to Tini Howard who wrote what is possibly my favorite line of dialog in the entire arc, Asuka telling Alexa Bliss, “You’re just a little fish.”
Next month the story moves on to Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, and the creative team can breath easily knowing they get to write about men once again. I’d be more upset about this, but if the “Women’s Evolution” story arc is anything to go on, I’m not sure if it’s better to see badly written caricatures of women or just no women at all.
For now? Mercifully, this story is fucking over.